The Lodge of Instruction Festival is always an inspiring event which has enjoyed an impressive list of presidents over the years. This year the festival was honoured to receive, as its 67th President, the Provincial Grand Master of the Province of West Lancashire Tony Harrison.
On his entry into the Lodge of Instruction, Tony was supported by a fine array of grand officers. These included Assistant Provincial Grand Masters Harry Cox, David Winder and David Grainger; there were nine other grand officers led by Steven Reid and Terry Hudson, both of whom are Past Assistant Provincial Grand Masters. There were also six Provincial grand officers led by Deputy Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies Malcolm Bell, who formed the procession. Secretary of the South Fylde Group David Barr also joined this procession. Past Senior Grand Deacon, Eric Picton and Chairman of South Fylde Group Ian Ward were already in the lodge in their capacity as senior preceptors of the Lodge of Instruction.
Tony was welcomed into the lodge by its master Brian Davey who offered him the gavel of the lodge. In response, Tony thanked the lodge members for their warm welcome and graciously returned the gavel to the master.
Director of ceremonies Abdul Benashour explained to the audience the format of the meeting and introduced the members of the festival team. These included the normal lodge officers plus a team of six lecturers in three teams of two. The lodge was then opened in the second and third degrees and the lectures began.
The first lecture commenced with Peter Robinson asking a series of questions concerning the ornaments, signs and working tools of a master Mason, as well as the principles underlying each of them. These questions were very well answered by John Bradley who had carefully studied this lecture.
The second lecture commenced with Chris Perfect asking questions about the second degree tracing board with the ornaments and history to which it refers. These questions were expertly answered by John Bainbridge who has explained this tracing board several times before.
The final lecture found Norman Prue questioning Paul Darlington on several principles that are inculcated by a study of different aspects of the first degree. These questions were answered with accuracy and precision and were finalised by an impassioned and quite remarkable account of the flight of the Israelites from their Egyptian bondage.
The lodge was then closed in the third and second degrees and David Winder, Vice President of the Fylde Group Lodge of Instruction, thanked the president of the festival for having honoured the lodge by his acceptance of that office. In his response, Tony applauded the festival team for the high standard of work they achieved. In making particular mention of the lectures he said: “I’m absolutely astonished by what I have witnessed this evening. It was absolutely fantastic. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
With these formalities concluded, Tony retired in the company of his distinguished retinue of supporters. There only remained for the secretary to record apologies and the lodge was closed.
After relaxing for a short while in the bar, the brethren removed to the dining hall for a fine banquet, provided by Lee Munro and his team. At the conclusion of the meal the customary toasts were observed. The toast to the President of the Festival was proposed by John Ogden. He advised that Tony Harrison was the fifth Provincial Grand Master to have been given this honour and that Sir Knowles Edge had been the Festival President twice. He continued to say that the highest-ranking Freemason to be President was Sir Archibald Orr Ewing, 6th Bart, Grand Master Mason of the Grand Lodge of Scotland. John conjectured on the prospect of Tony being promoted to Most Worshipful Grand Master then to become the Festival President in that capacity. Tony’s aside of ‘Don’t even think about it’ was the cause of much mirth! At the conclusion of a fine speech with many anecdotes from his association with Tony, John concluded by describing him as having an amazing memory for names adding: ”He loves to talk to the brethren and he’s very approachable. We are lucky to have him as our Provincial Grand Master.”
The President began by thanking John for his very kind toast, adding that it had been an absolutely fantastic evening. He continued by saying what a really great honour it was to be joining the roll of such prestigious previous presidents. He congratulated all who took part in the work. He also praised the preceptors for their work in the background. He said: “To have such a lodge as this within the Fylde is absolutely fabulous. I now understand why there are so many outstanding ritualists on the Fylde. It’s great to come to this area of the Province just to hear great ritual.” Tony urged the Lodge of Instruction members to go out into the other lodges and encourage brethren to join, adding: “All brethren need to be membership officers and mentors these days, to encourage brethren to join the Lodge of Instruction. He further encouraged an increase of the profile of the Royal Arch and urged chapter members also to circulate amongst the local lodges to identify willing candidates for exaltation into that order.
Tony continued his light-hearted but meaningful response by commending the meal and generally commented on how lucky we are to have the Palace as a Masonic venue, adding his congratulations to the hard working people who are running it. He also spoke about the changes to the care system including information about the two wonderful care homes, Tithebarn and Eccles, which are so well supported by brethren in the Province and by the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity. Continuing on the theme of charity he reported that our Province has been honoured to host a festival in aid of the new Freemasons’ Charitable Foundation. This festival will begin in 2017, which will also be the year of the tercentenary of the formation of the first Grand Lodge and many events are being planned in respect of both of these themes. At the end of his reply Tony received loud and prolonged applause.
It then fell to senior preceptor Ian Ward to present Tony with the traditional memento of his presidency, a finely carved maul and block, which had been suitably engraved to record the event. The evening was brought to a close by the traditional tyler’s toast which was proposed by Ken Grimshaw.